Ted Sebastianelli: Penn State Board of Trustees candidate

April 11, 2014 

Biographical information

State College

Age: 66

Education: B.S. business administration, insurance and real estate; United States Air Force Air Command and Staff College, 1985; Air War College, 1999

Work: retired militarily in 2004 as commander of the 112th Air Operations Squadron, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, State College; retired in 2007 as deputy director of human resources, Military District of Washington and Joint Forces Headquarters National Capital Region, Fort McNair, Washington.

Experiences and activities: member, Alumni Association and Centre County chapter; member, former president of Penn State Football Letterman’s Club, member of the Nittany Lion Club, member of the State College Quarterback Club.

Please describe your motivations for running for the Board of Trustees.

In each of the last two elections, three alumni representatives have been seated on the board of trustees. With this year’s election, we will have nine alumni trustees — the largest component of the board. For the remaining 2011 board members, the so-called “powers that be,” the sands will begin to shift. I will be a leader and a change agent, who will call upon the best of our past to make Penn State stronger in the future.

It is critically important to continue shifting the balance away from the power group of incumbent members who have repeatedly, and sadly, failed to defend our university, and who, through their negligence and poor decisions, have damaged our alma mater’s reputation.

What are the most important challenges ahead for Penn State, and if elected, how would you address them?

Rising cost of Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA). Hire an extremely well qualified and fiscally responsible athletics director. During the 2012-13 academic year, Penn State sports lost $5.9 million. Now ICA wants to borrow $30 million. We’re spending as if we’re printing money in the basement of Old Main. Just two years earlier, Penn State showed a profit of $14.8 million. We need to get our ICA fiscal house in order now.

Rising cost of education. Trustees and presidents can’t continue to balance their books on the backs of students and taxpayers. University Park is the second priciest four-year public university in the country. Penn State can’t continue to rubber-stamp tuition increases without eventually having some negative impact. At least one Big 10 school has frozen tuition and reduced meal plans with positive results. It can be done, but only with a president-led universitywide commitment to root out every cost saving possible, including those in major capital projects.

Reduce the time to degree. Student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt. Our students are leaving saddled with huge loan debt and high loan default rates. We must facilitate and, in fact, encourage students to take advantage of year-round learning to reduce their time to graduate. It’s not cost-effective for buildings to go unused or underutilized during less popular times like early mornings and Fridays. Students should be provided incentives including reduced tuition to matriculate during the summer so they can graduate faster and less expensively.

If elected, what position would you support on the topic of Penn State board of trustees reform?

I strongly support state Sens. John Yudichak’s and Jake Corman’s proposed legislation to change board structure, known as “The Penn State University Board of Trustees Reorganization Act.” I view this legislation as a solid first step on the road to restoring our university’s honor. Most appealing to me is the proposed selection process for the business and industry component of the board. Clearly, good governance demands that no one group should wield the undue influence they now exert. No longer will this clique be able to unilaterally decide who becomes a board member. With passage of the proposed legislation, Business and Industry will be comprised of members from four constituent groups along with an appointee of the board chair. “One person, one vote” should be the rule, with all trustees fully engaged in the business of doing what is best for Penn State, its students, and the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

If elected, what position would you support about Joe Paterno?

I strongly support state Sens. John Yudichak and Jake Corman’s proposed legislation to change board structure, known as “The Penn State University Board of Trustees Reorganization Act.” I view this legislation as a solid first step on the road to restoring our university’s honor. Most appealing to me is the proposed selection process for the business and industry component of the board. Clearly, good governance demands that no one group should wield the undue influence they now exert. No longer will this clique be able to unilaterally decide who becomes a board member. With passage of the proposed legislation, business and industry will be comprised of members from four constituent groups along with an appointee of the board chair. “One person, one vote” should be the rule, with all trustees fully engaged in the business of doing what is best for Penn State, its students, and the people of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Is there anything else you want voters to know about you and your candidacy?

I am a former military commander and past president of the Penn State Football Letterman’s Club who lives in State College.

One of our more outspoken trustees has pointed out it’s not just a question of experience, we need trustees who have the time it takes to measure up to their fiduciary responsibilities. I have both the experience and the time. Most of the other candidates haven’t even attended a trustee board meeting, let alone a committee meeting. I’ve chosen to attend many of the committee meetings and all of the board meetings for the better part of two years. For me, it’s really a question of priorities.

More info: www.facebook.com/ted.sebastianelli

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